As parents and educators lobby to save Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from budget cuts, a co-president of the Myers Park High PTSA decided to show local legislators exactly how cuts play out at one school. Margaret Marshall's e-mail (below) provides the kind of close-up glimpse that's often missing from talks about state and county budget cuts.
If you have examples of other interesting public-school lobbying efforts, send them to email@example.com so readers can see what's going on across the area.
-- Ann Doss Helms
From: Margaret Marshall
Sent: Monday, May 24, 2010 11:35 AM
To: Tricia.Cotham@ncleg.net; Becky.Carney@ncleg.net; Daniel.Clodfelter@ncleg.net; Martha.Alexander@ncleg.net; Bob.Rucho@ncleg.net;Ruth.Samuelson@ncleg.net; Kelly.Alexander@ncleg.net; Beverly.Earle@ncleg.net; Charlie.Dannelly@ncleg.net; Eddie.Goodall@ncleg.net;Malcolm.Graham@ncleg.net
Cc: Eric C. Davis
Subject: view from state's largest high school
Thanks for opening this fellow Mecklenburgers. I am Margaret Marshall, currently one of the co-presidents of Myers Park High School PTSA – the state’s largest high school. I am sure you all are getting thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls about all the cuts to every part of our state budget. I want to bring things down to a very local level and share what I see happening at our high school next year.
Myers Park High school is known for many things:
· Academic excellence
· Racial and socio-economic diversity
o We have over 25 countries represented – people from all over the world, not just the Americas
o We have 1/3 of our students receiving free and reduced lunch – this translates to almost 1000 students – the size of most NC high schools
o We have wealthy Myers Park neighborhood children going to school with homeless children – in other words it looks a lot like the real world
· Opportunities for all types of extra-curricular activities – sports (31 team opportunities), clubs, band (multi-programs), chorus (5 different choirs), Jr. ROTC, numerous career clubs and leadership opportunities, student led clubs and councils
Education happens in about every way possible on a campus that was built in the 1950’s. While renovated occasionally, our campus is certainly not a “prime physical specimen.”
Your money is well spent and goes a long way at Myers Park High School. You would be really proud of the work being done by the teaching staff and administrators, students, and parents.
We have given pink slips to 24 teachers this year (a few of those were associated with a recent reassignment). We gave around 25 pink slips to teachers last year too. Not to mention all the security and maintenance people that have also been let go. Our school population will hover around 2700 for the next school year. This means that we will have 49 less teachers than we had two years ago for a school population that is almost the same. I would like to tell you some things that were mentioned at a recent meeting with administrators:
· Classes – We will have 40 or more students in most of our core classes for honors, AP, and IB core classes – English, Math, Science, Social Studies, PE, and many foreign language classes
o We will have many empty classrooms
o Occupied classrooms will be filled to the maximum capacity. In fact the administrators don’t know how many of these classrooms will handle the extra furniture needed to house students. Classes may need to be moved to much larger spaces to accommodate the number of students who will be assigned to those teachers. We may have to purchase smaller furniture so that we can get more students in each class!
o Far less flexibility will be offered to our student population in their schedules because of the lack of teachers for each section. This means that kids who have a passion for art or band may not be able to fit those programs into their schedules because of the unavailability of core classes. While this is not the most major problem we face it creates less well-rounded students and I would venture unhappier students. We have enough of those already. We don’t need any more reason for kids to drop out.
· Teachers – With more students seen by each teacher during the day the quality of instruction will definitely go down. Differentiation in the classroom will be very challenging in a space that is crowded to begin with and with more students than before.
o I already see less writing than I would like because of the hours it takes to grade essays and test questions. Our teachers do amazing things but there are only so many hours in a day.
o It is nearly impossible to practice lab skills in classrooms with 40 students. Learning by doing or using multiple intelligences has already given way to more and more lecture type classes. This is frustrating to teachers and to students.
o Our staff now is much older than it was a few years ago. While there is much to be said for maturity, the energy the younger teachers bring is sorely missed. Although much has been said of using the current funding crisis to “clean house of low performers” that hasn’t happened so much because of strict employment guidelines and the difficulty of removing tenured teachers.
· Physical plant
o We are adjusting to less security personnel by locking entrances. Security camera purchases are more than likely going to have to occur, but monitoring them takes people we don’t have.
o Fewer school psychologists and health care professionals are putting our students at risk. School is often the only place to indentify and address student’s problems before they have to be handled by the criminal justice system or the health care system.
o The look of the school is deteriorating. Volunteers will be called on to help, but we can’t expect volunteers to handle all of these maintenance chores.
What are we doing about it?
· As parents, we are organizing to fund the purchase of technology that will enable our teachers be more efficient and effective than ever. We are trying to beef up our meager and outdated technology to give our teachers more tools to reach their students. More and more work is being done and handed in online. Our staff needs to have the tools to facilitate that.
· We will be bringing in more volunteers than ever before to take on tasks no longer funded by CMS and the state – running the computer labs, assisting front office work, helping in departments to free up teachers.
· We are trying to keep teacher morale as high as possible by treating them like THE PROFESSIONALS THAT THEY ARE. Our PTSA volunteers are organizing events for them to facilitate communication across departments, and learn best practices, etc.
· We are organizing our parent body to advocate for education more effectively in the government arena and the business community.
Even though a portion of our population has the capacity to provide financial resources and to contribute time during the school day, Myers park High School is struggling to provide a quality educational experience for our students. We are well aware that other schools don’t have the people and the financial resources we have. That is why I am asking you to really think hard about the education budget. I would also ask you to give Peter Gorman and Eric Davis flexibility to change things they need to change in order to make our tax dollars go further.
Please know that we are in a crisis state here in Mecklenburg County. We are watching you to see how you vote to fund education and how you support the children in our community in general. I have been involved in public education in Mecklenburg County for a long time. I don’t see fat anywhere. I believe that people who do voice the opinion that CMS has more fat to cut have spent little to no time evaluating what is really happening. I would welcome the time to dialogue with you more and would love for you to meet some of the students produced by CMS. Our final product is a good one and one that can’t be compromised.
Thanks for your time.
Myers Park High School